Member in the Spotlight allows us to get up-close and personal with some of our ACC Australia members. This week we are shining the spotlight on Frances Hoskins, General Counsel at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), and winner of 'Environmental, Social and Governance Excellence of the Year' at the 2020 ACC Australia Corporate Lawyer Awards.
Tell us about your current role.
I've recently stepped into the role of General Counsel at the Australian Institute of Marine Science, a government entity whose mission is focused on research and building knowledge of tropical marine science. It's wonderful working with scientists and technical experts who are passionate about making a positive impact on the environment and saving our coral reefs and ocean ecosystems. It's been a fascinating experience getting up to speed on the groundbreaking projects AIMS is working on.
What do you believe is the most important skill an in-house lawyer needs?
The ability to deeply understand the business, its needs and objectives, and to deliver solutions that help it achieve its strategic goals.
What led you to pursue an in-house legal role?
I moved in-house relatively early in my career because I was an environmental lawyer with a passion for public interest work. I jumped at the chance to work for the government in an environment and conservation agency.
What advice would you offer to in-house counsel in building relationships with their organisations
You can never spend too long listening, learning and asking questions to really get an understanding of the business and the broader context outside the legal branch. I'm also a big advocate of taking secondment or acting opportunities working in teams of non-lawyers to get a broader perspective on your organisation and build non-legal skills.
What is the one thing a law degree doesn’t teach you about being an in-house lawyer?
When I was a law student, we got the highest marks for spotting every legal issue, considering every detail and giving extremely comprehensive advice. I've found that in-house clients just want the answer and the solution and often prefer that you don't provide all the detailed legal reasoning. My advice has gotten shorter and shorter over the years, and experience has helped me be more strategic about the risks and issues I focus on.
What are the biggest changes you’ve witnessed across the legal sector since you joined the profession?
I've noticed that there is a growing desire for lawyers to be more commercial and able to provide services and advice outside of black letter law.
Finish this sentence… If I wasn’t a lawyer I’d be…
a leader of international food tours.
I like being a part of the ACC Australia community because…
it's a wonderful way to connect with fellow in-house lawyers, get useful advice, resources and support from those dealing with similar issues and challenges.